A SAILING group is set to celebrate more than seven decades on the water as it hits a major milestone.

The Thames Sailing Barge Trust, based in Maldon on the Hythe Quay, reaches an important anniversary this year by having been in operation for 75 years.

The trust was originally the Thames Barge Sailing Club, which was the brainchild of solicitor, engineer and wartime seaman Hugh Vaudey, who in 1947 coerced some Greenwich residents to join him in his ambition to sail a sailing barge and form a barge sailing club.

The most important of these residents was Frank Carr, director of the National Maritime Museum.

Mr Carr was the author of Sailing Barges, published in 1931. His name gave the idea of the club some credibility and it was decided that the Maritime Museum would be the club’s address.

The club’s first barge was Spurgeon which they chartered for four months from June 1948.

The club later owned the sailing barges Arrow, Asphodel, Westmoreland and currently Pudge and Centaur, which are based at Maldon.

Maldon and Burnham Standard: The Thames sailing trust's Pudge and Centaur bargesThe Thames sailing trust's Pudge and Centaur barges (Image: N/A)

They are on the National Historic Ships Register and were both Dunkirk 'Little Ships'.

Whilst Centaur did not make it to Dunkirk, Pudge helped save the lives of 160 French and British soldiers.

The Thames Barge Sailing Club became the Thames Sailing Barge Trust, a charitable trust, in May 2003 to assist with the raising of funds through grants and donations to keep both boats sailing.

Now, the trust exists to keep its two Thames barges in ship-shape condition for the benefit of the public and to pass on the skills required to sail them.

It has been awarded a grant from Trinity House for its training scheme, and also works with adult and children’s groups to teach them about the historic vessels and their part in maritime history.

This year the trust will also see the completion of a five-year project to restore and refit Pudge to sail from Maldon by the end of April, which has been partly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

To get involved with the trust, sail with the group or charter the barge, contact 07597 600860 or visit bargetrust.org.